tv Anthony Fierimonte Oral History Interview CSPAN July 22, 2017 7:30pm-8:01pm EDT
>> your dad did what? >> my dad worked for the city of line.t, which was the bus >> what was the job specifically? >> he was a mechanic. jobs, he worked with asbestos. that is what killed him. i have to tell you a story about my dad. when he retired, he got a job somewhere else and retired again . he wanted a new house. he informed me because the city of detroit hired him and gave , he is going to build a new house in detroit. me, you are a policeman now.
you have to do exactly the same thing. i bought a house it blocks from him in detroit. he was so dedicated. really nice. >> what age was it and you thought -- school, i went to high i got so many tickets from speeding and stuff. i really said i am in trouble. there was a police cadet program 17, then start at age you worked in different police station and you answered switchboards at all kinds of stuff. i said maybe if i became a police cadet i will forget -- quit getting all of these tickets. my buddy's father worked in the
cruiser. there were three plane closed officers. story. told us the they had the sotos and buicks. i thought this is great. -- i apply for the police cadet program and i made it. 17, right out of high school. >> you took it very seriously. was scholastically, that was a lot of fun. >> why was it important to achieve like that? anthony: i wanted to be the best at whatever i did. i said if i'm going to be a i have to tell you
another story. there was an italian inspector. he used to live with my dad and said what precinct would you like to go to? i can send you anywhere. i said it doesn't make any difference. he sent me to the tent precinct and i worked the area where the riots started. but i said that. therefore, that is where i ended up. >> what was happening? anthony: great. biggest single family residential city in the united states of america. million between one 400,000, 600,000 people at that time. so vibrant. , there weremmunity jobs there in factories and
stuff. that is how detroit became a terrific city to live in. i just loved detroit. it was great. the toy department on the 12th floor, we would take the streetcar. it was a great place to live. >> what was it that the -- what was the department like? >> i became a police officer in 1962. they just started integrating cars. persia -- ito didn't understand this integration as being a problem. a lot of white police officers really did not want to be part of integration. some police officers quit. i just did not see any problem. we integrated.
it was a slow process. but, it worked. it worked because later in the 1967 era, the federal government started to have these civil rights clashes. paying for college for any police officer who wanted to go to school. when you went to school, they taught police service in the community, and race relations. slowly it broke the ice. i signed up for the first class. , until i got years my doctorate. i really appreciate the federal government, what they did. that really helped break the ice for the police department.
>> there were dark sides where you needed a vice team. you gravitated towards it. anthony: i had 40 or 50 days on the police force. daysergeant pulled over one , i was walking the beat by myself, no problem. he said do you want to go undercover i couldn't believe it. 40 days on the job. i said absolutely. he took me under his wing and he said you are going to be arresting prostitutes, going , you'rebling casinos going to do that kind of stuff. i was jumping up and down with joy.
it was great. we worked every other month, nine to five in the morning. on days we look for numbers. numbers meant it is just like when you play three numbers. it was illegal then. people would say do you want to bet today? quarter.d give them a time, based on horse races, they would calculate different horse races. the number was the mafia number. they rolled it for probably 15 years. halfway through that there was the black pontiac number. there was a black number and a
white number. the numbers were different. i think when too many bats came in a certain number, they changed it. i don't know. shift, we did the other thing. it was exciting. crackdownre a bigger when cavanagh came into office? >> no. every precinct had a cleanup crew that did this type of thing. blind pigs, everything. it wasn't singled out for just the black community at all. i've got to admit to you, working in the black community was twice as much fun as working in the white community.
as we made these rates and stuff, they would go a long. -- raids and stuff, they would go along. they always had a friend who was a judge in the white community, a police commander, lieutenant. you can't take me in. it is going to be the end of my life. b.s.d, what that is a true story. >> a blind pig. you know the origin of the name? anthony: it started in prohibition. you could get booze anywhere. i don't know how the word started. that was the nickname they gave it. this is what was happening with which -- the baptist
ministers, the black baptist were [inaudible] with any administration it was. got to stopay you these people from doing -- going drinking all night. we are the church. all the bars sure closed. sayinggot this element this is it. come to church tomorrow. then you have this element saying i'm not ready. i want to have some fun. i wondered what would happen if the city would have allowed bars to be open to 4:00 or 5:00. you to buy as longer license, you can stay
open until 4:00. the baptists were strong. you have this dichotomy. law.re told to enforce the you had to be licensed. could mostlyyou sell liquor. prostitutes. you could go in a room or do whatever. then there would be dice tables. then you would gamble. you could do all that stuff. any time somebody took a cut of the money it became illegal. that gave us the right to break into rescue the undercover officer that was inside the
place. we saw himve, after walk in the door, five minutes to make a wager or buy a drink, and see the guy except money. it was from 62 when i started to the riot, 1967. problem.had a but the country was getting tense. things were happening all over. a lot of the black community was unhappy. segregated.ey were they could not get employment that they wanted. they were stuck in apartments that had been caught up.
one apartment became 2. streetuld go out on 12th . they would go out to see what is happening. it got out of hand. >> you sent in to officers. >> yes. would kill me if he ever saw me again. he was a patrol sergeant. i was the crew leader. wo officers. charles henry. i'm not going to tell you ever. charles henry, joseph brown.
charles henry became a commander . he was a nice guy. i've got to tell you, a side issue. calls the police commissioner in detroit. .'m guessing ray gerrard the number one guy. he was an appointee. he was really clever on the way back. he asked the commissioner if he could have permission to live out of the city.
he gave them permission. i could be living on the lake somewhere. he was a fine sergeant. all the guys were great. >> what was that you that you could come in? >> i had an informant. because youm breaks have to barter. he says i have a hot party going on tonight. street, north of claremont. two buildings upstairs. he said let's give it a try. they did. they came back.
ladiestil some beautiful go up to the door and go with them. heck, he got in. all we had to do was wait five minutes. they knew they would either do it or come back out. they were able to get up there and make any legal -- an illegal buy. i said this is easy. there were four or five of us. we had no problems. the fire truck happens to come by. i said no, you do it. they were able to break the door down. we went up these tall flight of steps.
people.e, 20 .5 in a room in, everyone calm down. they started throwing cube walls and us. i grabbed my police officers to pull them out of the opening into the hallway. they said you are not taking anybody to jail. we got them out there. we closed the door. they started throwing things out the window. chairs. cue balls. they drew a crowd. then, we had prep by that time.
wagon.d for the paddy there's a fight in there. the dispatcher says, we don't have enough personnel in the city. i can't believe this. to send you the paddy wagon, we police officers working the whole city of detroit. a million 600 people. we have 5000 police officers. it was a weekend. there's all kinds of people that have time off. i don't know. -- they had a special patrol force, people just out of the academy that are being trained.
in charge of the patrol force heard my calls. cruiser, they pulled up. the crowd cap third. somebody broke the back window out of the cruiser. a great looking car. we finally got paddy wagons. we loaded the paddy wagons and took them into the 10th precinct, which was brand-new. building joy before was built around 1900. this was a nice improvement. i told one of the police the deli andng to call us and tell us what is
going on. police station, i'll never forget this guy look. an older gentleman. i said boss, you better get out there. there is a big problem brewing. every time you do something, you exaggerate. i said some i'm telling you. take -- but i am wasting my time. what is going on? anyway, he started the ball , calling all police officers.
they started to break into the stores. i considered it a riot. , they broke into black businesses, white businesses, they started stealing everything out of the stores. got notified.r with -- whothere was it? a state senator. i think he is still a state senator. conyers. it could have been conyers. they gave the order, don't shoot. be cool. just let it go. that is the order they gave.
word got out. word got out and suddenly, there is 50,000 people on 12 streets. saidnk part of what they was ok. heart of it was not. people started dying. fight in a meat market and they hung one of the guys on a meat hook and killed them. then a liquor store. they looted the upstairs. went to get the taste of the blues upstairs, they put the place on fire. everybody in the basement died. it started to escalate. i'm jumping ahead a little bit.
this was a 14 day situation. picture this. when the fire department came out, they would shoot at the fire department. lynwood, i have pictures of this. they were breaking into the stores on lynwood. then they would step the sores -- set the stores on fire. they would go down henry. you have to understand, this is very important. maybe 10% of the people in the community. all kinds came up to us and said please help us. 10% of the rioters easily were white. occasion --t of festive occasion. but it was deadly.
on both sides of the streets burned to the ground. i have pictures. it was mind-boggling. tv with atole a stereo and a radio. he probably got them in a museum. they got into a fight. one guy split it in half. the other guy called the police. that was the easiest arrests ever made. thing, they went to a carpetingre and stole and put on the roof of a volkswagen. all the tires splayed out. a and tragic at the same time.
the majority of the black community was not involved in this but, then you have to look at it another way. they were destroying the stores in their neighborhood that they had to shop in. a lot of people in the neighborhood didn't have cars. they had no place to shop. , all thisafter this fire and everything. anti-sniper,e an working midnight to 12, and i got that silly police car that i love. , weut plywood under their would put a sub machine gun on. trust me. i've could not hit anything with that machine gun. if i had thrown it maybe i would have hit it.
it danced all over the place. it was a 45. it was a joke. usompany called stoner lent weapons that could go through brick. 47 people died during the riots in 1967. what really stopped it was not us. the state police couldn't stop it. the national guard couldn't stop it. the wood hundred first airborne came in from vietnam. they brought tanks. the tanks went down the street. we had somebody shooting out of a church steeple. we were at davidson.
a guy opened a lid on the tank and said block your ears. he shot the steeple off the church. once that started happening, there was a military in there. everything stopped. no. there is something else to think about. killed.uther king got the instructions from the police was to takethat ,nforcement action immediately within two or three hours, everything stopped.
nothing happened. for the forced -- for the first two or three hours, everything is coming down from downtown. everything stopped. either monday morning quarterback, or do you say we should have done that? kavanaugh was stealing from the community. they were suppressed. they had problems with jobs. a lot of it exists today. it amazes me that there is not good buzz service to the suburbs -- bus service. a lot of people would like to do that. detroit is making a comeback. i love it. the community is going to be
great. but it is going to take time. >> join us on c-span3 sunday for an american history tv live special at noon, eastern. heather in towns and of the university of michigan and detroit free press editorial page editor steve henderson. at 1:15 p.m. eastern, isaiah mckenna and former detroit free press journalist, tim, and american history tv special. the 50th anniversary. live, sunday, at noon eastern on c-span3. on lectures in history, emory university professor felix a class on hows conspiracy theories about ufos have shaped